What New York’s Chefs Eat and Drink to Fight the Flu


We’ve been offered a lot of fairly obvious flu-fighting tips lately, like avoiding close contact with sick people and washing our hands. But what to eat and drink?

Chefs fight off the flu with some interesting homemade concoctions, featuring guest appearances from ingredients like cachaça, raw eggs, and salmon roe. Though I turn to variations on the same old remedy I’ve been making for years, these suggestions from professionals across the city are making me rethink my strategy.

If you need: To not feel dead inside
There’s some disagreement over using capsaicin, which gives chiles its burning qualities. Does it clear the sinuses, or just irritate them? Hmm, both?

David Bouley, Bouley
“I blend cayenne pepper extract, turmeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar, buffered vitamin C powder, rosemary, roasted garlic mix, and one tablespoon of lemon-flavored cod liver oil, and drink this three times a day, either as a hot tea, or as a cold drink when mixed with citrus juice.”

Katy Sparks, Tavern on the Green
“As soon I feel a cold coming on, I make my own tea with freshly grated ginger, raw honey, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch a cayenne chile powder with hot — but not boiling — water. It works wonders!”

Chris Santos, the Stanton Social
“I find hot and spicy dishes make me feel better and they’re something I seem to crave when I’m under the weather. What draws us to hot sauce is that when the body senses pain (like the pain your mouth feels after a heavy dose of spice), it responds by emitting endorphins. So having a bottle of extra hot sauce lying around for those moments when you could use some of your body’s natural pain relievers, that would be my advice.”

If you need: A good night’s sleep
Alcohol may not boost your immune system, but drink enough of it and it’s sure to help you fall asleep!

Daniel Holzman, The Meatball Shop
“A hot toddy made with honey, lemon, tea, and spiked with sweet port wine, helps to ward off germs and stay warm. There’s always mama’s chicken soup, but that’s something you’ve got to ask mama for.”

Masato Shimizu, 15 East
“There’s nothing better to fight a cold than sake. My family remedy consists of 4 ounces of hot sake mixed with a tablespoon of salmon roe and a raw egg. Stir, sip, and sleep the cold away.”

Christina Tosi, Milk Bar
“My remedy is a deep, sour, sweet tea of Lipton tea bags (over-steeped), lemon juice (way too much), honey (way too much), and a shot of Stroh Rum, if I’m feeling particularly achy. It’s a combo of remedies I picked up — the Stroh Rum from Alex Grunert when I worked for him at Bouley (he’d make me a spiked tea when I was sick), and the tea/lemon/honey in potent ratios from Marian Mar, my opening sous chef at Milk Bar, who would throw it together whenever I overworked myself into a cold or flu!”

Jared-Stafford Hill, Maison Premiere
“I eat big bowls of noodles in soup washed down with hot cups of barley tea from Japanese restaurants. That leaves me feeling like my immune system has been boosted. And a bottle of a big Châteauneuf-du-Pape when I get home is like extra vitamins, right?”

Marco Moreira, Tocqueville
“My mother is Brazilian and would bring one cup of cachaça to a boil, pour it into a mug with ¼ cup of sliced ginger and a tablespoon of cloves. She would let the potent remedy steep for 20 minutes, strain it, and hand it to me before bed.”

If you need: To taste again
Ginger is the king of homemade cold remedies. Fresh, raw, and grated into tea, soup, or lentils, it ‘s one of the few flavors that can reach you when you’re deep in the flu fog. (Raw garlic — if you’re going to be quarantined at home away from your fellow humans — accompanies it well.)

Anita Lo, Annisa
“No alcohol! Garlic, citrus, ginger, and chiles with nothing creamy. Thai tom yum fits this bill nicely (and you can make it with chicken if you believe in the chicken soup myth).”

Ben Daitz, Num Pang
“Whenever I am feeling under the weather, I always make myself a ginger-apple cider (which we’re now serving in the shops). Served hot, it’s a super comforting drink, and perfect company when I’m curled up on the couch trying to recover. Plus the ginger (known for its health benefits like reducing nausea and boosting your immune system), honey (which helps to sooth my sore throat), and apples (high in Vitamin C) make a great flu-fighting combination.”

Akhtar Nawab, La Esquina
“I eat channa dal with lots of ginger, garlic, and black cumin. It’s simple and comforting, like India’s version of chicken soup, but light and vegetarian. To drink: ginger juice, tulsi (basil), hot water, and honey.”

Got your own homemade remedy? Tell us about it in the comments.